The rise of smart mobile devices has changed the ways that network architecture is managed. Since the introduction of smartphones, more and more user contents have been generated from such mobile devices than client-server computers, and that’s why enterprises have been competing in the offering of cloud services and Big Data management. Thus, the dynamically changing traffic pattern has driven the trends to revolutionize network architectures.

SDN (software-defined network) and NFV (network functions virtualization) have emerged as the favored solutions. SDN decouples data plane and control plane, so that the network becomes directly programmable and disaggregated from the physical networking hardware. On the other hand, NFV introduced the idea of running VNFs (virtualized network functions) onto existing network infrastructure. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of vCPE/uCPE (virtual customer premise equipment/universal customer premise equipment) white-box solutions and the successful deployment of SD-WAN have made the two concepts a dynamic buzzword.

vCPE/uCPE Benefits for CSPs

vCPE/uCPE has enabled communication service providers to build up agile and economical enterprise networks, by running multiple VNFs that were once functions conducted by proprietary equipments. For instance, in a traditional network architecture, the EPC (evolved packet core) function required dedicated hardware and switches, but now this function can be virtualized and implemented onto a white-box vCPE/uCPE. This provides a high degree of agility and economic advantage for business to enhance their edge network. Meanwhile, CSPs can modularize their VNFs to meet customer demands for serviceability. Any addition of network functions can be virtually programmable instead of piling the cost of hardware investment.

vCPE/uCPE Benefits for Edge

As the dawn of 5G, CSPs are looking to the virtualization of network edges. It is clear that 5G will be based on disaggregated and distributed network architecture. In an effort to gain a competitive edge networking, CSPs today are seeking high-performance white-box vCPE/uCPE to replace proprietary equipments, and leverage ZTP (zero-touch provisioning) to accelerate their deployments and software configurations. Meanwhile, they are also extending their capability of developing VNFs at the edge, such as virtualized firewall, router and WAN, in order to enhance and modularize their services for their distributed network points.

In an effort to promote edge virtualization, some CSPs have leveraged Open Source software and OpenFlow concepts for their white-box vCPE/uCPE hardware. The reason is because edge computing is well-suited for NFV infrastructure to improve throughputs and transfer the network functions from hardware bases, such as base stations or RAN stations, to be software programmable for potential 5G-required functions like Network Slicing. This transition will bring intelligence to the edge, which is in proximity from users and devices, while cutting down the latency.

Recommended Hardware

As discussed, white-box vCPE/uCPE form the fundamental core of SDN and NFV at the edge. Therefore, how to find a suitable white-box hardware with the same or even better performance than the proprietary equipments is the key to the successful deployment of virtualized edge computing. For example, Lanner Electronics Inc. has a wide range of pre-validated by industry leaders and optimized white-box appliance portfolio to function as vCPE/uCPE for enterprise networks.